LSU Health New Orleans Test Doubles Detection of Life-Threatening Condition in Premature Infants

April 24, 2024

Premature infant in hospital bed with pulse monitor attached to foot.


Sunyoung Kim portrait

Sunyoung Kim, PhD, professor of genetics at LSU Health New Orleans’ School of Medicine

LSU Health New Orleans is helping save premature infants' lives with a recently patented test that aids in the early detection of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a gastrointestinal condition and the second deadliest disease in preemie babies.

The diagnostic scoring system doubles the accuracy of diagnosis, leading to earlier intervention by medical professionals before inflammation and related complications can develop. The noninvasive test was invented by Sunyoung Kim, PhD, professor of genetics at LSU Health New Orleans’ School of Medicine. 

“Necrotizing enterocolitis continues to be a devastating disease for preemie babies who require long hospital stays," Kim said. "Methods in this patent to score disease severity are attractive to diagnostic companies that already provide equipment to hospital pathology labs and for drug companies interested in tackling NEC therapies.”

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development estimates that NEC affects about 9,000 of the 480,000 infants born preterm each year in the United States. One-third of infants with NEC die from the disease. Surgical survivors require lifelong care that requires millions of dollars.

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